During last week’s discussion of Marmite artists–those artists that are so divisive, they force people to take sides, with no one left in the middle–Idolator commenter moomintroll wondered if we shouldn’t try and find more ways to classify popular bands through their analogues to various condiments. Since we figured the safe space in the fridge inhabited by your ketchups, your mustards, and your molding bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch was as good a way to make sense of the current musical landscape as any, we invited her to flesh out her theory for us. It’s after the jump!
Ketchup: Ubiquitous, generally well-liked.
Key characteristics: Universally accepted as great background music; can be played at a party frequented by many different-minded souls with minimal complaint; informal surveys of friends will reveal that most people own at least one of their “essential” albums, but rarely own their entire discography.
Sample artists: Weezer, Air, Kelly Clarkson.
When they’re past their sell-by date: When they’re liked by almost too many people. (Think Dave Matthews.)
Mustard: Popular in its original form, but also available in spicy variations.
Key characteristics:Masters of reinvention; have found mainstream success with one genre of music, but can’t wait to go all Dijon and become something entirely different; tend to find success in most everything they do, to the chagrin of safe-but-steady ketchup bands.
Sample artists: Damon Albarn, Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake.
When they’re past their sell-by date: When they take it one step too far and become children’s book authors.
Ranch Dressing: It’s kind of gross, and did you know it has, like, 1,000 calories? Eww–wait, is that a Sam’s Club-sized bottle of ranch in your fridge? Busted.
Key characteristics: The aural equivalent of a band that turns your fancy baby spinach and endive salad into a cheeseburger; few people will admit to liking them, yet singalongs to their music are commonplace; classic bands of this ilk are popular sources for ironic T-shirt wearing.
Sample artists: Ultravox, Cobra Starship, Carrie Underwood.
When they’re past their sell-by date: When a snoopy friend discovers their songs in your iTunes library. (This is why I keep such acts in a secret folder known as “Hidden Valley.”)
Pesto: Are you going to buy it on your own? No. Do you enjoy it on a $20 sandwich at a restaurant? Yes.
Key characteristics: Highbrow critics swear by them; they are cited as an influence by many mainstream musicians; their sections at your local record store are accompanied by breathless two-index-card treatises on their genius; someone in the band has been rumored to be mentally unstable, resulting in long gaps between releases.
Sample artists: Scott Walker (Scott 4 through The Drift), Patti Smith, My Bloody Valentine.
When they’re past their sell-by date: The inevitable reunion tour, which is risky, and could turn them into a creamier pesto… a sort of ranch, some might say.
Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers: That new spray-on salad dressing looks totally cool, and it’s only 10 calories per squirt. I should try it…one day.
Key characteristics: Frequently cited as “brilliant” and “life-changing”; it’s a burden on your life that you have never tried to get into them; when dropped into a conversation, you say you’ve “heard of them but haven’t heard them.”
Sample artists:Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, The Shins.
When they’re past their sell-by date: When you get called out for faking affection toward them.
Newman’s Own: The critics and masses alike adored him, and he’s versatile enough to have put out a whole line of his own condiments.
Ingredients: Think ketchup, but with fans that think they are the bombolina because they possess a rare combination of talent and success.
Sample artists: Radiohead, The Roots, Bjork.
When they’re past their sell-by date: When they reach a little too far in trying to have it both ways, and do things like collaborate with with Timbaland. (I’m looking at you, Bjork.)
One commenter thought that Newman’s Own bands should also include musicians who perform various charitable acts. But if a band or musician has become famous enough to really make a difference in the world through charity work, the possibility for backlash is inevitable. Which brings me to my final pop condiment classification.
Miracle Whip: Sure, its name makes it sound impressive. But is it really capable of anything close to a miracle?
Ingredients: Overexposure; less time devoted to music because of meetings with various world leaders about peace; incipient God complex; wire stories about “political” asides at concerts; tendencies toward writing “messages” on own skin with Sharpies.
Sample artists: Coldplay, U2, Kanye West.
When they’re past their sell-by date: Miracle Whip bands have got that gooey stuff around the lid and everything, and you should probably throw them out. But they’ll stay in the fridge door of popular opinion forever.